published on August 4, 2017
Paul R. Powers
Territory Is Not Map
Deterritorialisation, Mere Religion, and Islamic State
While the Islamic State (IS) has much in common with many other contemporary jihadist groups, this article argues that it expresses a distinctive attitude toward the taking, holding, and expanding of territory. Olivier Roy’s notion of the “deterritorialisation” of late-modern Muslim religiosity suggests that many Muslims, whether in minority or majority situations, perceive themselves as detached from “home” lands and cultures and, partly as a result, find Islam reduced from a holistic phenomenon to a truncated and compartmentalized “mere religion.” IS efforts to take territory can be seen in part as a rejection of such deterritorialisation. The IS version of a reinvigorated Islam is made possible solely by the possession of territory, and hinges on apocalyptic expectations about certain concrete locations and on the possibility of enacting a robust, hyper-aggressive form of Islamic law.